Blog round-up: Drought, San Joaquin River Restoration, trees in the San Joaquin Valley, BDCP, dams, and much more …
The drought may be on, but there’s certainly no drought of opinions on a multitude of California water topics …
California’s regulated drought impacts aquifers, says the Western Farm Press blog: Todd Fitchette writes: “Congratulations to the environmental community and the elected and appointed officials you’ve bought and paid for over the years. Human beings in California now have no running water while the fish you worship do. Feel better now? … As climatically unprecedented in modern times that our current drought is, one fact remains: the cause of this drought is more regulatory than it is a natural phenomenon. This is exactly what we get when we view a subservient nature in higher esteem than the humans it’s meant to serve. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press blog here: California’s regulated drought impacts aquifers
Where has all the water gone this year? Doug Obegi takes a look: “Although a few storms in March and April improved hydrology and water supply for some water districts, 2014 is still going to be a very tough year for most farmers, some cities, and our fish and wildlife. While this year is no longer on track to be the worst drought on record, it is still likely to be one of the worst droughts in recent history. However, those storms did allow the Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources to increase water supply allocations by in recent weeks, particularly for senior contractors on the Sacramento River and Feather River. However, under California’s water rights system, some water contractors will get no water from the state and federal water projects, while other contractors will get 75% or 100% of maximum contract amounts. … ” Read more from Doug Obegi at the NRDC Switchboard blog here: California’s Drought: Where has the Water Gone this year?
San Joaquin River Restoration program has helped the fish and the drought, says Peter Vorster at the Bay Institute: He writes: ” … In addition to re-introducing Chinook salmon, the Restoration Program has minimized water supply impacts to the Friant Water Districts resulting from increased releases of water to the river (restoration releases) and provided water supply benefits to other parts of the San Joaquin Valley. Using Restoration Program numbers, I have calculated that less water has flowed out of the San Joaquin Valley since October 2009 — when restoration releases began — than would have without the Restoration Program; this is because most of the water provided in restoration releases was retained in groundwater or used elsewhere in the San Joaquin Valley and because the Restoration Program reoperated Friant Dam in a way that retained more water in the Valley during the wet years. … ” Read more from the Bay Institute here: Restoration Program Provides Multiple Benefits During Drought
High-speed rail trees versus farm trees: Families Protecting the Valley notes that the construction of high-speed rail will increase greenhouse gas emissions, so the plan is to offset those emissions with an urban forestry program that would plant thousands of trees in the Central Valley. ” … We have a problem. We will let millions of trees die because of the drought and the zero allocation of water to farms. But, we will plant thousands of trees to offset high-speed rail greenhouse gas emmissions? I guess the farmer’s trees won’t do the job. The high-speed trees must be a special kind of tree, an environmental tree, an offset tree. Won’t these trees also need water? Wonder where they’ll get it. Must be some kind of high-speed tree water bank.” Read the full post from Families Protecting the Valley here: High-Speed Trees vs. Farm Trees
Why do their trees hold us hostage, asks On the Public Record: “I’ve seen this story a few places in the last couple days. It has a catchy hook: water flowing back uphill! I understand it as a story about withdrawing groundwater from the Kern Water Bank in the southern Valley and pumping it back up the California Aqueduct (against a slight rise) to the middle western Valley. My impressions: It is more conceivable that water should flow back uphill than that a part of the Valley that has no water at all in drought years (that will become increasingly common) be zoned “not for permanent crops”. There is no such zoning today, but reversing gravity at the cost of energy and engineering scramble is considered do-able, but requiring that the lands that lands that are entirely dependent on the State Water Project, which cannot meet demand in a drought, not be planted with permanent crops is completely taboo. … ” Read more from On the Public Record here: Why do their trees hold us hostage?
Internal memo reveals ‘the fix is in’ on Delta tunnel plan: “Advocates for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Central Valley salmon and openness and transparency in government have often stated that the “fix is in” on Governor Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnel plan. Their contention that the process is rigged and unjustly manipulated by state officials and water contractors was only confirmed in a May 6 memorandum sent to Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff from DWR Director Mark Cowin indicating that the Brown administration is stepping up its efforts to fast-track the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. Cowin said two new organizations will be established within the agency to implement the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan – a DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) – beginning June 1. … ” Read more from Dan Bacher here: Internal memo reveals ‘the fix is in’ on Delta tunnel plan
Memo stirs up more criticism of BDCP: “This memo describes how the state would manage the twin tunnels project: By working alongside the water agencies that expect to use the tunnels. The memo, by Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, describes setting up a new “BDCP Office” to oversee aspects of the plan separate from the tunnels themselves, such as habitat restoration. … ” Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog here: New twin tunnels criticism
Los Angeles Office of Public Accountability Finds Bay Delta Conservation Plan Affordable for City Households at Roughly $2 per Month, points out the Southern California Water Committee: “Los Angeles’ Office of Public Accountability (OPA)/Ratepayer Advocate has determined the costs associated with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) are affordable for almost all Los Angeles households. The OPA outlined in a recent report that the combined cost of constructing a new tunnel system as proposed in the BDCP, associated environmental improvements and a separate statewide water bond would result in an average $4 per month rate increase for city households. The OPA estimates the cost of BDCP alone—tunnel construction and environmental improvements—at just over $2 per month per household, which is even lower than previous estimates. “Southern California has a major stake in protecting the reliability of water supplies from the northern part of the state because even with major local water supply developments, we will still need this water. The good news is that we can modernize the water delivery system and secure this water supply at an affordable price—it’s a smart investment,” said Rich Atwater, executive director of the Southern California Water Committee (SCWC). ... ” Read more from the Southern California Water Committee here: Los Angeles Office of Public Accountability Finds Bay Delta Conservation Plan Affordable for City Households at Roughly $2 per Month
LA Office Of Public Accountability BDCP Cost Analysis is Incomplete, Asks Wrong Question, says Restore the Delta: “Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s plan to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today criticized the Los Angeles Office of Public Accountability’s (OPA) analysis of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s (BDCP) cost to Los Angeles ratepayers as a “biased and piecemeal” analysis. “The Office of Public Accountability (OPA) performed a disservice to the people of Los Angeles by ignoring key issues, failing to consider alternatives to the tunnels and not addressing the subsidy that LA ratepayers will provide to unsustainable industrial agriculture on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley,” said RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “It’s disturbing that OPA consulted only proponents, paid consultants for BDCP, and did not review one study by independent experts or opponents.” The OPA analysis claims that $25 billion – which is only the current construction cost estimate – is the “total” estimated cost, excluding bonds. The analysis also falsely claims that $17 billion would cover “facilities, operations and associated mitigation.” In fact, the total cost of the project approaches $57 billion. … ” Read more from Restore the Delta here: LA Office Of Public Accountability BDCP Cost Analysis is Incomplete, Asks Wrong Question
Time to revisit the economics of dam removal: “In California, we ask water managers to do the near-impossible task of managing rivers for both environmental and economic objectives, which are often at odds. Where we have repeatedly failed to stem or reverse environmental problems, environmental regulation can drive water management. California’s Bay Delta – a water source for 25 million people and about 3 million acres of farmland – is a prime example. No sooner did Gov. Jerry Brown declare a statewide drought emergency in January than enforcers of the Endangered Species Act ordered big cuts in Delta water exports to protect the delta smelt, a native species on the brink of extinction. … ” Read more from the California Water Blog here: Time to revisit economics of dam removal
Dams are not the answer to water shortages, says the Valley Citizen blog: “As the drought worsens, it’s only inevitable that cries for more dams become louder and more frequent. One of the latest came from the Modesto Bee’s Mike Dunbar in a May 3 editorial when he wrote, “Our best-case scenario? The tunnel plan collapses and new dams provide more water for everyone to share, even in the driest droughts.” But if dams were the solution to our water problems, we wouldn’t be suffering shortages today…. Remember the controversy over New Melones Dam? Critics said it would devastate salmon runs and fisheries. Supporters said the dam’s almost two and a half million acre foot capacity would solve our water problems. Today, our salmon fisheries are dying and our water problems are worse than ever. … ” Water Shortage? Dams Are Not the Answer
Regional Self-Sufficiency: Using Water in the Sacramento Valley for Farms, Fish and Birds: “Water is the lifeblood of the Sacramento Valley, and with minimal precipitation and low reservoirs in the North State, we are using every drop to support our farms, fish and birds. Our goal is to be self-sufficient as a region – this year and every year – because water security at the local level is the best strategy to avoid impacts from drought, now and in the future. The Sacramento Valley embraces the state policies on regional sustainability and self-sufficiency with respect to our precious water resources. … ” Continue reading from the NCWA blog here: Regional Self-Sufficiency: Using Water in the Sacramento Valley for Farms, Fish and Birds
Smith Canal meeting unorthodox but interesting: “Thursday night’s Smith Canal meeting was one of the most interesting I’ve ever attended. In lieu of the Pledge of Allegiance, local engineer Dominick Gulli led things off by playing a video of Smokey Robinson singing the National Anthem at Game 5 of the 1986 World Series. “I love the Red Sox,” he explained, before recapping for his audience the famous Bill Buckner play. Gulli then acknowledged that lots of people wanted to know who all was behind this “Save Dad’s Point” business. “It’s two people,” he said. “Me and my silent partner, John Galt.” … ” Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog here: Unorthodox, but interesting
Supreme Court allows LA stormwater tax: “On May 5, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear another appeal in a case mandating tax increases to pay for stopping and cleaning up polluted storm water. The L.A. County Supervisors have been playing hot potato with the highly unpopular stormwater tax mandated by the California Legislature in 2010 to deal with the cleanup. The mandate applies only in L.A. County under Assembly Bill 2554. The remainder of the state is not subject to storm-water cleanup. … ” Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here: Supreme Court allows L.A. County storm tax
Judge dismisses all Cadiz Water Project lawsuits: “The six remaining lawsuits challenging the approvals of the Cadiz Water Project were dismissed in a May 1, 2014 court ruling, allowing the project to move forward. Following lengthy court hearings in January and February, Orange County Superior Court judge Gail Andler ruled that opponents had failed to prove the Cadiz project would violate state environmental laws. Three lawsuits were dismissed or settled earlier, leaving only those brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Tetra Technologies, a Texas-based oil an gas conglomerate that operates a strip mine near the Cadiz project site. Their challenges were largely procedural, not environmental, covering matters like the choice of lead agency and the sequence of approvals. … ” Read more from the Cadiz Water Supply Project here: Judge dismisses all Cadiz Water Project lawsuits
Prop 26 wins San Diego water war: “Remember Proposition 26, the Stop Hidden Taxes Initiative, passed by 52.5 percent of California’s voters in 2010? Probably no one who voted at that time had any idea Prop. 26 would help resolve — at least for now — the 68-year water rate battle between the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. SDCWA and MWD have been fighting a water war since 1946 over who has paramount water rights during droughts and how much SDCWA should pay for the transport of water through MWD’s aqueduct and pipeline system. … ” Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here: Prop. 26 wins San Diego water war
Lake Mead and Lake Powell to end year at lowest storage since 1968: “The total combined storage in Lake Mead and Lake Powell at the end of September (the close of the “water year”) will be the lowest since 1968, when Powell was first being filled, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Reclamation “24-Month Study” … ” See the graph and read more from the Inkstain blog here: Mead, Powell to end year at lowest storage since 1968
Peter Gleick on the risks to U.S. water supplies from climate change: “After three years of intensive effort, research, writing, and review by hundreds of climate scientists, the latest update of the U.S. National Climate Assessment was released today. It includes many long, carefully prepared sectoral and regional studies, and covers the massive range of effects of climate change on the nation, including both changes already observed and expected in the future. There are hundreds of pages of information, observations, projections, and conclusions to absorb — almost all of it bad news. Here, in short form and in the actual wording from the NCA (with page numbers from the “Highlights” summary report), are some of the most important conclusions related to U.S. water resources … ” Read more from the Huffington Post here: The Risks to U.S. Water Resources From Climate Change
Does expanding the Clean Water Act make fiscal sense? “So argues former GOP representative Sherwood Boehlert in last week’s Roll Call. Actually, Mr. Boehlert makes several arguments, not all fiscally based, to support EPA’s and the Corps’ proposal to assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction to every stream, and probably every wetland, in the country. First, the rule “does not break new ground” but merely clarifies what Congress always intended, viz., to regulate “all of our nation’s important surface waters.” Second, the regulations are not a “land grab” because the Clean Water Act protects “people’s rights,” principally by preventing pollution nuisances. Third, the loss of wetlands hurts taxpayers because government must pay more for flood control and pollution remediation. Fourth, the regulations provide clarity, which will help the regulated public. Let’s look at each of these assertions a little more closely. … ” Read more from the Liberty Blog here: Does expanding the Clean Water Act make fiscal sense?
Photo credit: Guitar forest, by NASA’s Earth Observatory. “Pedro Martin Ureta created a piece of land art so that it could be viewed from an airplane. It turns out that it is visible from space, too. In the fertile lowland plains of Argentina (the Pampas), a guitar-shaped forest grows amidst the farmland. The project was started in 1979 by Ureta on his farm near the town of Laboulaye, and it has become a wonder for pilots and passengers flying over the region. Together with his children, Ureta created the forest in a tribute to his wife, Graciela, who died during childbirth in 1977. News reports claim that Ureta has never seen his creation from the air, except for photos from friends.” More information here.